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Tag:Troy Tulowitzki
Posted on: June 4, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Best first-round picks of the last decade



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With the MLB Draft beginning Monday night at 7 p.m. ET, the Eye on Baseball crew is going to look at the best -- and worst -- first-round draft picks by each team in the last 10 years. 

With the way the baseball draft goes, there are plenty of busts in the first round every year, but there are a lot of great players in the game that were drafted in the first round and the supplemental first round. Tomorrow we'll look at the misses, but for today, here are the hits.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Most first overall picks make the majors and many (Alex Rodrgiuez, Ken Griffey, Chipper Jones) find their way to superstardom. Justin Upton may not be a superstar yet, but the first overall pick of the 2005 draft already has one All-Star appearance under his belt and will probably have more to come.

Atlanta Braves: With the 14th pick in the 2007 draft, the Braves took a local kid, outfielder Jason Heyward. Nice pick.

MLB Draft

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is close to taking this spot, but for now it's still Nick Markakis, who was taken with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 draft out of Young Harris College in Georgia.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox had five picks in the first round and the supplemental first round in 2005, and as good as Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie are, the pick here is right-hander Clay Buchholz, taken 42nd overall out of Angelina College.

Chicago Cubs: While his name is now a cautionary tale, it's easy to forget just how good Mark Prior was before arm trouble. Drafted with the second pick of the 2001 draft, he won six games in 2002 and 18 in 2003, his best season. Overall, Prior was 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA.

Gordon BeckhamChicago White Sox: Even with his struggles last year and this season, Gordon Beckham has been a productive player for the White Sox after he was taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Cincinnati Reds: Taken out of high school with the 12th overall pick in 2005, Jay Bruce is the reigning National League Player of the Month and only seems to be getting better at 24. He already has 85 homers in his career, including a National League-best 17 this season.

Cleveland Indians: How bad have the Indians' first-round picks been the last decade? The 18 players taken by Cleveland in the first round and the supplemental first round over the last 10 years have collected just 506 games in the majors, 334 for Cleveland. Lonnie Chisenhall (29th overall in 2008) may eventually be their best in this list, but for right now it's the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, who at least has 40 big-league wins.

Colorado Rockies: While the Indians' choice was tough, the Rockies' wasn't -- Troy Tulowitzki was taken with the seventh overall pick in 2005.

Detroit Tigers: With the second pick in 2004, the Tigers took Justin Verlander.

Florida Marlins: The team's best pick of the last decade came in the fourth round of the 2002 draft when it took high school pitcher Josh Johnson, but as far as first-round picks, their best is right-hander Chris Volstad, taken with the 16th pick of the 2005 draft.

Chris BurkeHouston Astros: The Astros didn't have first-round picks in 2003, 2004 and 2007 and haven't had much production from any of them. There's really just two choices, Chris Burke (10th overall, 2001) and Jason Castro (10th overall, 2008). Castro has potential, but is out this season and has played in just 67 big league games, so the pick is Burke, who played in parts of six seasons with three teams, but his 18th-inning walk-off homer (left) to clinch the 2005 NLDS against the Braves is one of the franchise's signature moments.

Kansas City Royals: This choice could be much more difficult in five years, but for now it's pretty easy -- Zack Greinke. The Royals selected him sixth overall in the 2002 draft and he won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jered Weaver was the 12th pick of the 2004 draft.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers took lefty Clayton Kershaw with the seventh pick of the 2006 draft out of a Texas high school.

Milwaukee Brewers: This could change in a couple of years, but for now, Prince Fielder (seventh overall, 2002) leads Ryan Braun (fifth overall, 2005). Fielder is a free agent this offseason, while Braun is under contract through 2020.

Minnesota Twins: There were those who questioned the pick of hometown boy Joe Mauer with the first pick in the 2001 draft instead of Prior. Not anymore.

New York Mets: Fred Wilpon may not think he's a franchise player, but David Wright is the team's best first-round pick in the last decade, taken with the 38th overall pick in 2001.

New York Yankees: The Yankees have plenty of first-round picks on their roster, although few were their picks. Two key pitchers, starter Phil Hughes (23rd overall in 2004) and reliever Joba Chamberlain (41st overall in 2006), were Yankee picks. The pick here is Chamberlain, who has allowed fewer runs in a similar number of innings and is currently pitching.

Oakland Athletics: A chapter of the book Moneyball focuses on the 2002 MLB Draft and Billy Beane's distaste of drafting high school players. In the book, the team is excited the Brewers take a player they won't touch (Fielder), and the team also doesn't want Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels or Matt Cain -- all high school player. But they get the man they want the most, Nick Swisher at No. 16. It's a good pick, as is Joe Blanton at 24 -- but it's hardly Greinke, Fielder, Hamels or Cain. The team also picked Jeremy Brown, a catcher out of Alabama, and Mark Teahen in the supplemental round. 

Philadelphia Phillies: Another pick from the Moneyball draft, the pick after the A's took Swisher, the Phillies snatched up Hamels, the left-hander from a California high school with the 17th pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The 2005 draft featured six players listed as center fielders taken in the first round -- and all six have made the big leagues. The second one taken was the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen with the 11th overall pick. The others were Cameron Maybin (10), Bruce (12), Trevor Crowe (14), Ellsbury (23) and Colby Rasmus (28).

San Diego Padres: The Padres may have had one of the biggest busts of the last decade in Matt Bush, the first overall pick in 2004 draft, but he's not been their only bad pick. The best of the lot was Khalil Greene, taken No. 13 in 2002, who had a promising start of his career, but his troubles with social anxiety disorder drove him from the game. Still, he's the Padres' career leader in homers by a shortstop with 84.

San Francisco Giants: Nine teams passed on the right-hander out of Washington, some scared off by his funky motion and small stature. Tim Lincecum proved them wrong.

Evan LongoriaSeattle Mariners: Adam Jones (37th pick in 2003) played in just 73 games for the Mariners, but was named an All-Star and won a Gold Glove with the Orioles in 2009.

St. Louis Cardinals: With a compensation pick for the Red Sox signing Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals used the 28th pick of the 2005 draft to take Rasmus out of an Alabama High School.

Tampa Bay Rays: Were Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds better than Evan Longoria? The Royals and Rockies took those two right-handers with the first two picks of the 2006 draft, leaving Longoria (left) for the Rays.

Texas Rangers: Funny story here -- in 2001 I was working at the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia and was covering the NCAA Regional in Athens when a Teixeira-led Georgia Tech squad was bounced from the tournament. After his last game, a kid from the student radio station asked Teixeira if he thought his poor showing in the regional would hurt his draft status. The Georgia Tech coach, Danny Hall, took the microphone before Teixeira could answer and said, "No." So did the Rangers, who took him fifth overall.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays took lefty Ricky Romero out of Cal State Fullerton with the sixth pick in the 2005 draft.

Washington Nationals: Another pick that could change with the emergence of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but that's still several years away because of the fourth pick of the 2005 draft,  Ryan Zimmerman.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 31, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 3:49 pm
 

NL All-Star balloting update: Cards lead way



By Matt Snyder


Major League Baseball has issued a press release with the first All-Star balloting update of the season, and the NL starting lineup would include three Cardinals if the voting ended right now. The leaders by position (including three outfielders, of course): Albert Pujols, Brandon Phillips, Placido Polanco, Troy Tulowitzki, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. (Full ballot update at MLB.com)

A few things immediately jump out:

- Jose Reyes is the most qualified candidate at shortstop, despite Tulowitzki's hot start. Reyes leads the NL in hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases and is hitting .335 with an .876 OPS. He doesn't even have half the votes Tulo does. Oh, and Jimmy Rollins (.265 with a .698 OPS) is second. At least Reyes is in third, but it's odd to see a player in New York so under-represented in the voting.

- The starter at first base has gotta be Joey Votto over Pujols. It's not even close this season. Votto is second, trailing by about 182,000 votes. Prince Fielder (third) and Ryan Howard (fourth) should also be ahead of Pujols. Remember, it's for the 2011 season.

- Speaking of which, Chase Utley is third in voting at second base.

- Dodgers outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have very strong cases in the outfield, and they check in at spots four and five in the voting, respectively. Still, who are you going to bump between Braun, Holliday and Berkman? Maybe we can petition to move Braun to third base in order to maximize the offense?

- The biggest snub appears to be Jay Bruce. The young Reds' slugger was been an absolute man-child in May and leads the NL in home runs, RBI and total bases. He's 12th place in votes for outfielders. Looks like Reds fans need to get over to MLB.com and support their team. Phillips leads at second because there aren't many good candidates, but Votto and Bruce should be starting and aren't yet in that position.

- Obviously, Posey can't start because of his season-ending injury and NL manager Bruce Bochy will name a replacement if Posey wins the voting. So the catcher voting -- at least as long as he's at the top -- is irrelevant.

Voting continues on MLB.com through June 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET. There will be an update on AL voting Wednesday.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Braun signs big extension with Brewers

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Ryan BraunThe Brewers have announced a five-year extension for outfielder Ryan Braun through the 2020 season. There's also a mutual option for 2021.

According to CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler, the deal is worth $105 million for those five years from 2016-20, with a $10 million signing bonus. He'll make $19 million from 2016-18, $18 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020. There's a mutual option worth $20 million for 2021 and a $4 million buyout. He has a no-trade clause and has agreed to defer some of the payments in hopes of helping the owners keep their payroll competitive.

Here are some other notes Knobler passed along:

• Braun and Troy Tulowitzki are the only two players in the game signed through 2020, with two more -- Joe Mauer and Adrian Gonzalez -- signed through 2018.

• The average annual value of his contract is $21 million, the most for any outfielder. He is guaranteed $145.5 million from this season through the end of the contract.

• Now 27, Bruan is now one of seven players signed through age 36 that have spent their entire career with one team, joining Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones and Todd Helton.

• It's the largest contract (by annual average value) given out by a team in the lower third of teams determined by the Nielson Company.

Braun had signed an eight-year, $45 million deal in May of 2008.

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:10 pm
 

Pepper: Dangerous game for fans, too

Jose Salazar

By C. Trent Rosecrans


When I went to Class A game the other day, I sat in the front row just to film from that angle and I was shocked at just how close I was sitting -- and how little the fans around me were paying attention.

Of course, it's worse at the minor-league level and in spring training where the stadiums are smaller, but it's still dangerous at the big-league level. Last night in Los Angeles, a fan at the Dodgers game was hit by a foul ball from Matt Holliday and carried off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. [Associated Press ]

This spring, of course, Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar was struck in the face by a foul ball and lost an eye.

On Friday, Salazar returned to manage the Lynchburg Hillcats.

This weekend, it was a feel-good story to see Salazar back in uniform, but it was so close to being different. [Lynchburg News Advance ]

STRANGE BALK -- Take a minute to watch this -- last night Justin Verlander tried to pick off Daric Barton at first, but caught a cleat in the dirt, so instead of making a bad throw to first, he threw home and hit David DeJesus. Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck ruled it a balk, awarding Barton second base. DeJesus later walked. Verlander said afterward, even he laughed at how it looked. [MLB.com ]

BRADEN LEAVES EARLY -- A's starter Dallas Braden left Saturday's game with shoulder stiffness after five innings. There's no update yet, but it could be bad news for the A's. [San Francisco Chronicle ]

AFRICAN-AMERICAN PARTICIPATION DECLINES
-- As teams honored Jackie Robinson this weekend, the Mets' Willie Harris finds the lack of African-Americans in the game "sad." Only 9.1 percent of major leaguers on opening day 2010 were African-American, while 20 percent were in 1995. Harris said he doesn't think MLB markets its top African-American stars, such as Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford and CC Sabathia, well enough. [New York Daily News

Rockies STARTER FALLS - - For the first time this season, a Rockies starter picked up a loss in the game. Jason Hamel was the first Rockies starter to earn an L, falling 8-3 to the Cubs and ending the Rockies' seven-game winning streak. [Associated Press ]

AND THERE'S THAT
--The other day White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he has the league's best bullpen, despite his relievers blowing six saves and converting just one. On Saturday, he said he knows he has a good defensive team, despite its 15 errors this season, 13 in the last 10 games. [Chicago Tribune ]
 
SPEAKING OF -- The A's lead the majors with 17 errors, including one more on Saturday. First baseman Daric Barton -- widely viewed as one of the best defensive first basemen in the game -- is tied for the team-lead with three errors. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff has three, as well. [MLB.com ]

EARNING HIS KEEP -- Could this be the year Alfonso Soriano lives up to his promise and salary? Soriano leads the Cubs with five home runs and 12 RBI. [Chicago Tribune ]

NO LEFTY -- The Dodgers don't have a left-handed reliever in their bullpen after Hong-Chih Kuo was place don the disabled list and replaced on the roster by right-hander Ramon Troncoso. [Los Angeles Times ]

ROYAL PEN -- One of the reasons the Royals are leading in the American League Central is their bullpen, well, almost all of their bullpen. In a reversal of expectations, only closer Joakim Soria, one of the best closers in baseball the last couple of years, has struggled. Manager Ned Yost said his closer is just "human" and should be fine. Still, the likes of Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress and Aaron Crow have impressed. [Kansas City Star ]

NEW PITCH -- Giants closer Brian Wilson is playing coy about a new pitch in his arsenal. Wilson, who will talk about most subjects, isn't discussing a new pitch he's throwing to right-handed batters. It may be a two-seam fastball, a cutter or even a screwball. [San Jose Mercury News ]

ATTENDANCE WOES -- This month six teams have set records for their lowest attendance since their current park opened -- the Braves, Indians, Mariners, Cardinals, Yankees and Twins. Overall attendance is down just two percent this year, which is less than I expected. [USA Today ]

HOW LOW CAN IT GO? -- Seattle is being hit particularly hard at the turnstiles. [Seattle Times ]

UBIQUITOUS OBLUQUE -- I missed this earlier this week, but heard Tim McCarver bring it up during yesterday's Mets-Braves games -- Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times wrote a great article about the oblique injury, noting 14 players had gone on the DL this year with an oblique injury. Also, before MRI technology improved to its current point, the injury had been called rib cage or abdominal injuries, the diagnosis is just better nowadays.

BIG DRAFT -- What if you had to pick from Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, Ricky Romero, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Mike Pelfrey, Wade Townsend, Chris Volstad, John Mayberry Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury, Colby Rasmus or Clay Buchholz? The 2005 draft offered those choices. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ]

WRIGLEY GRIDIRON -- The Cubs and Northwestern want to continue playing football games at Wrigley Field, despite the challenges they faced this season. In the end, money wins. [Chicago Tribune ]

TUCSON HOME -- Padres owner Jeff Moorad said Tucson will be the Triple-A home for the Padres for at least another year and could be an option if the team isn't able to get funding for a park in Escondido, Calif. [Arizona Daily Star ]

A DIFFERENT MANNY -- Manny Ramirez changed when he went to Boston. [Akron Beacon-Journal ]

HOT DOGGIN' -- A look at the best and craziest hot dogs at ballparks this season. I'm thinking about getting that Meat Lovers Dog at Great American Ball Park later today. I'll take pictures. In the name of "journalism" of course. I'm also curious about the Bahn Mi Dog at Nationals Stadium and [SeriousEats.com ]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb  on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: April 14, 2011 7:26 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 11:03 pm
 

Scorching hot Tulowitzki powering Rockies

By Matt Snyder

The Rockies are 10-2 and Troy Tulowitzki is in the proverbial zone.

In a double-header Thursday against the Mets -- at the pitcher-friendly Citi Field, mind you -- Tulowitzki hit a home run in each game. He now leads the majors with seven. No one else has more than five. But that isn't anywhere close to the extent of the power surge.

Tulowitzki has now homered four consecutive games in Citi Field. This is the Mets' third season playing in that venue, and no Mets player has ever homered in consecutive games in the same series there. (thanks, Jayson Stark of ESPN)

In his last 40 games, dating back to last September 3, Tulowitzki has 22 home runs. Pro-rated over the course of 162 games, that's a pace for 89 home runs.

He's not just hitting home runs, either. He went 10-16 with eight RBI in the four-game series at Queens.

Overall, Tulowitzki has drawn 12 walks while only striking out five times. His on-base percentage is .500, which goes nicely with that .364 batting average. With 14 RBI, he's now tied with Prince Fielder for the major-league lead. He leads the majors in slugging percentage (.909) by a pretty decent margin. His OPS is a robust 1.409.

And all this with four hitless games (totaling 16 at-bats). He has at least one extra-base hit in every single game he's collected a hit. The most amazing thing about this is the Rockies have only played four of their 12 games in the hitter's haven that is Coors Field -- humidor or no, Coors was the top ballpark for runs and second for home runs in 2010 (and has never been outside the top 10 in homers).

The Rockies return home for a six-game homestand, beginning with a weekend series against the Cubs -- who sport a 5.06 ERA, good for 25th in baseball. Only five teams have allowed more home runs, too.

Memo to Mike Quade: Maybe just put Tulowitzki on a few times?

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Category: MLB
Posted on: April 12, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: April 12, 2011 2:03 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/11: Pitching driving Tribe

By Matt Snyder

3UP

Mitch Talbot, Indians. Actually, we could put the entire Tribe starting rotation here. It's been incredible during the eight-game Cleveland winning streak. During that span, Talbot, Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin have combined for a 1.55 ERA (hat-tip to Jordan Bastian ). Monday it was Talbot's turn, and he went eight shutout innings, allowing the Angels only five hits and two walks while striking out four. He was given four runs by his offense in the first two innings and cruised to victory.

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. The shortstop got his team on the scoreboard with an RBI single in the third, kept the Mets off the board with an incredible defensive play to end the seventh and then hit a two-run shot in the eighth that would prove to be the eventual difference in a 7-6 Rockies win.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals. When he came to bat in the seventh, he was still without his first home run as a Cardinal. Before the game was over, he had two.

3DOWN

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox. I tweeted during the game that the difference in Josh Beckett's stuff from Sunday night to Dice-K's stuff Monday was like going from varsity to junior high. Allow me to alter that sentiment. It was more like varsity to little league. There's just no bite on any of his pitches and he doesn't even seem to command anything well. He somehow made it through two innings, giving up eight hits, seven earned runs, two home runs and two walks.

Juan Pierre, White Sox. Yes, Pierre had to run a long way. Yes, Matt Thornton has now blown three saves without converting any. Still, Pierre needs to make that catch on the warning track. If it happens, maybe Thornton finally gets off the schneid with his first save. Instead, the White Sox lose in extra innings. And, by the way, that was the second time Pierre's dropped a fly with Thornton on the hill this season.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners. It was a rare off-night for the King. He was battered by the Blue Jays to the tune of seven earned runs on 12 hits in six innings. Of course ...

Special bonus entry: The Blue Jays' bullpen. It was 7-0 after six innings. A Milton Bradley solo homer in the seventh made it a seemingly innocent 7-1 tally. Then the eighth inning happened. David Purcey allowed two singles and a walk. Octavio Dotel walked two -- both forcing runs home. Marc Rzepczynski came in and walked in another before allowing a single. All of a sudden, it was 7-6. Shawn Camp did get out of the inning, but lost it in the ninth -- eventually on a two-RBI knock by Luis Rodriguez. The simple math? After the eighth inning began, the Mariners scored seven runs before the Blue Jays could record a sixth out. Four pitchers failed to varying degrees.

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Posted on: March 31, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: March 31, 2011 6:23 pm
 

2011: the year of Tulo's rat (tail)

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Troy Tulowitzki The mullet is gone, but Troy Tulowitzki had a new hair cause this season -- the rat tail.

Once again, the Rockies shortstop is growing his hair out to raise money for the "Win for Kids" campaign that helps support kids in the Denver area.

Tulowitzki's baby rat is long enough to notice up close, but hasn't gotten to the point yet where it's peeking out of his batting helmet.

"I'm always looking for creative ways to involve the fans," Tulowitzki told the Denver Post . "Without them, we wouldn't have this great game."

Tulowitzki also held a vote with the newspaper to choose his at-bat music, which will be revealed on opening day. Last season he had Miley Cyrus' Party In the U.S.A.

"That's why I've done the mullet, and why I'm growing the rat tail," Tulowitzki said. "We want the fans to be involved. I remember as a kid what it was like to get autographs, to feel close to the players."

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Category: MLB
Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 9:35 pm
 

Five teams to improve, five to decline in 2011

By Matt Snyder

Finally, spring training is concluding. Now we have a day or two before your favorite team begins play. In the meantime, I'm here to bring you the top five teams to decline and the top five to improve upon their 2010 performances. In return, you accuse me of bias and call me names. It's fun for everyone, really. One thing to keep in mind is that improving or declining by more than 10 games is pretty drastic. On some of these, I'm looking at something like a seven-game swing.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO IMPROVE

1. Boston Red Sox. Well, let's see ... Last season Kevin Youkilis only played 102 games, Dustin Pedroia saw action in 75 and Jacoby Ellsbury just 18. Josh Beckett was either injured or ineffective all season. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a team that won 89 games, despite all those injury woes -- and some underachieving from people like John Lackey. Easiest call on the board here, and even Yankees fans would have to concede this team is loaded.

2. Oakland A's. The pitching staff is stellar, even including the bullpen. The starting rotation is already really good and only getting better. The A's won 81 with one of the worst offenses in baseball last season. A full season of Coco Crisp, Kurt Suzuki bouncing back and the additions of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham don't exactly sound like adding Gonzalez and Crawford, but small improvements will do wonders for the pitching staff. Slugger Chris Carter is waiting in the wings, too, and don't be surprised if Billy Beane adds a bat at the deadline.

3. Colorado Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki needs to stay healthy and Dexter Fowler needs to get closer to his ceiling. I'm going out on a limb that both happen, along with steps forward from Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart. Watch Jhoulys Chacin's development in the starting rotation, too. He's got big potential.

4. Milwaukee Brewers. This is contingent upon the big names staying healthy and Zack Greinke getting healthy as soon as possible, because this team is paper-thin. But the top line is very impressive. Plus, the division is not very good at all. The Brewers are going to score runs, get good starting pitching (again, assuming the health thing) and have a good back-end of the bullpen. If they can overcome defense and depth deficiencies, they'll win the Central.

5. Florida Marlins. Call it a bit of a gut call, but I really like the Marlins. The rotation really has great potential with Javier Vazquez returning to a pitcher's park in the NL East (he's apparently too intimidated by being a Yankee) and Ricky Nolasco having the ability to be a true No. 2 if he can ever stay consistent. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad have -- again, this word -- potential to be solid at the end, with stud Josh Johnson leading the five-some. I love the outfield potential of Logan Morrison, Chris Coghlan and Mike Stanton, so long as all three can stay healthy. Hanley Ramirez is primed to have a big season, too.

TOP FIVE TEAMS TO DECLINE

1. San Diego Padres. Removing Gonzalez from the middle of the batting order changes the complexion of everything. And Mat Latos is already hurt, which does nothing to alleviate the concern of the huge workload increase he's experienced over the past two seasons. Most of all, the Padres just seem outmanned by the Giants and Rockies. Winning close to 90 games seems outlandish. Of course, many people said that last year, too.

2. Houston Astros. They overachieved in a big way last season according to run differential (the 'Stros allowed 118 more runs than they scored) and aren't any better. Other than Hunter Pence, the position players are either getting old (Carlos Lee), still unproven (Brett Wallace) or just not that good (Jason Michaels, Bill Hall, Michael Bourn). I'm not a huge fan of the rotation, but it's going to have to carry the team. Good luck with that.

3. Tampa Bay Rays. This is difficult. It's hard to not love the Rays for being so good at sticking with the Yankees and Red Sox in the mighty AL East on that paltry payroll. The loss of Crawford hurts. Carlos Pena wasn't overly productive -- though he was much better than his batting average said -- last season, but his presence helps everyone else see better pitches. That goes away with Dan Johnson at first. The loss of Matt Garza isn't a big deal, so long as Jeremy Hellickson does his thing and James Shields returns to form. The bullpen is worse, though. Look, I'd pick the Rays to win the NL Central if they were in it, but the Yankees aren't any worse and the Red Sox are way better. The Orioles should be better as well. I think the Rays win in the ballpark of 86 games, but that's 10 worse than last year and good for third place.

4. Toronto Blue Jays. They're still building and are moving in the right direction, but winning 85 games again in that division is a very tall order. Any offensive bounce-back from the likes of Aaron Hill and Adam Lind is negated by Jose Bautista's return to this planet.

5. St. Louis Cardinals. If anyone can pull this off, it's Dave Duncan, but losing Adam Wainwright was a death blow. Chris Carpenter is old and injury-prone. Jaime Garcia is due a massive regression. Kyle Lohse was awful last year and Jake Westbrook doesn't have good stuff. Kyle McClellan could very well prove a solid No. 5 starter, but he hasn't exceeded 75 2/3 innings the past three seasons in the bullpen. Can he really double that and remain effective? The outfield defense won't do the staff any favors, either. The Pujols/Holliday/Rasmus combo -- and even Lance Berkman in a best-case scenario -- is very solid, but there's only going to be so much they can do on some nights. I feel like mid-to-high 70s in wins, but Duncan and Tony La Russa find ways to make people wrong often.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com